Merging Academics and Professionals in the Fargo-Moorhead Area and Beyond

Written by: Sam Kise

Dr. Shontarius Aikens’ New Position with the Midwest Academy of Management & His Plans for the Future

Many of you will remember Dr. Shontarius Aikens, Associate Professor of Management at Concordia College, from his “Academic Insight” articles that ran in Fargo INC! from 2019 through the end of 2022. If you have been wondering where those articles went and what Dr. Aikens has been up to, look no further! We sat down with Dr. Aikens to learn more about his new role at the Midwest Academy of Management and what he’s been working on since his last Fargo INC! article, as well as his vision for his future.

Aikens poses with the recognition awards he received at the 2022 Midwest Academy of Management conference for his work with Open Conference.

New Responsibilities

on October 2022, Dr. Shontarius Aikens was elected to the Program Chair-Elect position for the Midwest Academy of Management. This position is part of a succession plan, and in 2025, he will be serving as the president of the Academy. However, it wasn’t always his plan to hold such a prestigious leadership position. He has slowly worked his way up through the ranks since he became involved with Midwest in 2011.

“I remember when I was teaching at Texas A&M, my mentor reached out and asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to present at Midwest?’ I asked, ‘What’s Midwest?’ So, I went with a colleague and presented there. I then decided I wanted to present something else there, and then do a professional development workshop. Then, they asked me if I wanted to serve as a reviewer, and I ended up winning a ‘best reviewer’ award— which was cool. Someone then asked me if I wanted to be a track chair, and I did that for two years. Next, I got the opportunity to be a conference program coordinator, and then they asked if I would be interested in doing Open Conference, so I did that for about three years. Then they asked if I would like to be a co-coordinator for the doctoral consortium, and pretty soon my mentor suggested that I should run for Program Chair.”

Midwest Academy of Management

The Midwest Academy of Management was founded in 1957 as a regional affiliate of the national organization Academy of Management. It is the oldest of all of the regional affiliates of the national Academy. The three objectives of the organization are as follows, as stated in their organizational constitution:

  • Provide a forum for the expression of the latest management theory and research by Midwest Academy members.
  • Provide opportunities for pooling of shared experiences and thinking among Midwest Academy members.
  • Facilitate new acquaintances among Midwest Academy of Management members and actively integrate junior faculty and doctoral students into the program.

“The program and activities of the Midwest Academy of Management are structured primarily for scholars but include practitioners in the field of management, both public and private, profit and nonprofit.” – The Consitution of the Midwest Academy of Management

In his new role, Aikens is spending most of his time in a support role to the current Program Chair and assisting him with planning the Midwest Academy Conference, set for October 2023.

“My role as Program Chair-Elect is to assist the current program chair with our 2023 conference which is going to be held in Chicago. We actually just had a board meeting several weekends ago, when we flew there to look at the site for the conference,” Aikens said.

In addition to his role assisting the current Program Chair, Aikens has already started to embrace his role as future Program Chair. He will be coordinating the 2024 Midwest Academy of Management conference—set to take place in the Fargo-Moorhead area—and he already has the contract signed for the venue.

“I’ve actually started that process in terms of securing a hotel and getting the contract signed. One of the board members told me that out of all the years of his involvement with the board, he’s never seen a Program Chair-Elect that has already gotten a contract even before they started the role. Well, I don’t like to wait until the last minute. So, the contract is signed,” Aikens said.

On top of his duties as Program ChairElect, he is also taking the time to train and onboard the new Director of Open Conference, which was his previous position.

Open Conference is the system used to collect and approve submitted paper proposals for Midwest Academy’s annual conference

“When I started with Open Conference, there was nobody that really showed me how to do things. So I learned on my own. Over the years, I developed different tutorials and different sheets of knowledge about how to do things so that now I can train this new person,” Aikens explained. “I now know what you should do to create a manual so that we don’t have that drop off [of knowledge] every year someone comes in. When someone new comes in, I can say ‘Here’s the manual. Here’s how you do things.’”

The 2024 Midwest Academy of Management Conference

When Dr. Aikens steps into his role as Program Chair, immediately following the 2023 Midwest Academy conference, his primary responsibility will be to coordinate and ensure the success of the 2024 Midwest Academy of Management conference. Part of that duty includes getting sponsorships from local and regional businesses to help students, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend the conference, with funding their travel and conference registration costs.

“One thing that the Program Chair usually does is get sponsors. We’ll try to get different levels of sponsors. Sponsors will usually donate money, and then we put their name in our program booklet. The sponsorship money goes to help us fund graduate students who may not be able to go to a conference without help,” Aikens explained.

Dr. Shontarius Aikens hopes to reach even more students and connect academics to business practice as a leader in the Midwest Academy of Management.

According to Aikens, sponsorships and donations from businesses are becoming more important in ensuring students can get to conferences because colleges are no longer offering as much funding to graduate students for travel, due to budget cuts.

Did you know?
More than half of US states have decreased funding to their colleges and universities, which is one reason for increased tuition rates.

Aikens will also be responsible for overseeing the paper submission process, securing the facilities needed for presentations, and securing keynote speakers, among other tasks. Since the previous Midwest Academy conference in the Fargo-Moorhead area was held in Fargo, he has chosen a venue in Moorhead, to help bring exposure to Moorhead’s business community.

As Aikens plans, he continues to look for ways to connect the business and academic communities prior to and during the conference. This connection is something he has always been passionate about throughout his career.

“When I teach my students, I want to make sure that I can say, ‘Look, this is what industry is telling me,’ so that they have relevance to say that this isn’t just theory. But also, maybe there’s a business person who says, ‘I need help. I feel like my organization is out of alignment and I need to figure out what we can do to get the structure back.’ And we, in academia, can say ‘there’s a tool called the 7-S Model that was developed by consultants at McKinsey and Company. Here are the seven things you need to be thinking about.’”

Did you know?
The 7S Model, developed in the late 1970s, focuses on strategy, structure, systems, skills, style, staff, and shared values within an organization in order to improve a company’s performance.

With the 2024 conference, the hope is to bridge that gap between business professionals and those in academia even further.

“This is one of the hotbed areas for business. When you have Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank that says he’s investing in North Dakota and this area, that is a unique opportunity. And I’m always trying to figure out ways that our community’s resources and connections could benefit local business communities and the schools in the area.”

A Work-WorkLife Balance

Being so busy with his new role at the Midwest Academy, teaching at Concordia College, and working on his own research, Dr. Aikens has had to take a step back and reconsider what his priorities are.

“Now that I have tenure at Concordia College, I’m trying to increase my research and do some additional writing. There are more requirements in terms of service [before you’re tenured]. And the past couple years, I felt like I was gone too much. I wasn’t really in the classroom as much as I wanted to be. And I really enjoy being in the classroom. So I had to take a step back,” he said.

Having realized he was overworking himself, Aikens saw the need to limit the responsibilities he took on. He needed to manage his priorities, rather than just managing his time. “I thought about it coming back on a plane ride from Detroit. I made a list of the things that are most important to me. Then I started thinking, alright, I can’t try to cram 36 hours worth of work into a 24 hour day. It is not only impossible, but it’s insane. You just can’t do that. So I had to start thinking about what was most important. Once I started doing that, I felt I had a good handle. And then I had to start kind of making my peace with not being able to do everything I wanted to do.”

Though he doesn’t always have time to do everything he wants to do, he still does take time to balance his work and his personal life. He makes it to the movie theater whenever he can, with one of his most recent watches being “Creed III.” He’s also embraced saying “no” when he needs to, and always asks the time commitment for new roles or meetings up-front so that he is not overwhelmed later. All of these things help him stay levelheaded and on top of his large workload.

Looking Forward

With all of these current responsibilities, even more are on the horizon. Yet, Dr. Aikens finds the possibilities that come with all of the responsibilities to be the most rewarding thing about the position he’s in.

Aikens explained, “I think the most rewarding thing is to be able to contribute to the Midwest Academy getting better. I’ve been involved in the organization for quite some time. I see things that we do, and we can make things better. I’ve been on the Board of Governors for the past several years, and now that I will be transitioning into an official leadership position, I can actually spearhead some of those changes.”

Aikens has heard great ideas from those in the Midwest Academy for years, and he wants to do his part to bring their ideas to fruition. He is looking forward to being able to make those big decisions and really making a difference when he steps into the role of President of the Midwest Academy of Management in 2025.

The Midwest Academy of Management has a four-year succession plan for their leaders. Once elected to the position Dr. Aikens currently holds, you will serve as Program ChairElect (year 1), Program Chair (year 2), President (year 3), and Past President (year 4).

“Talking is good. But there comes a time when the rubber meets the road and we actually have to get things done,” he said.

Aikens has a long road ahead of him as he plans the Midwest Academy’s 2024 conference and prepares to be President of the Organization in 2025. But with his diligence and passion, he hopes he will really change the field of management for the better.

Want to Reach Out to Dr. Shontarius Aikens? Email him at [email protected].

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